For the last three years South Carolina guard Bruce Ellington has also been a member of the football team, and the fact of the matter is that he was pretty good for Steve Spurrier’s program. This season Ellington led the team in receptions (49), resulting in 775 yards and eight receiving touchdowns, and in three seasons his 16 touchdown receptions rank seventh on the school’s all-time list.
With his accomplishments on the football field and a college degree he completed last month, Ellington has decided to forego his final season of football eligibility to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. So what does any of this have to do with the basketball program? The news also means that he won’t be returning to the program as he did after each of the prior two football seasons.
“I would like to thank Coach Spurrier, Coach Horn and Coach Martin for giving me the opportunity to play both football and basketball at South Carolina,” Ellington said in the school release. “I also want to thank all the Gamecock fans and my teammates for the past four years in Columbia. It’s been a great experience and I’ve been truly blessed.”
In three-plus seasons as a basketball player Ellington averaged 11.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game for South Carolina. In three games this season, playing for Frank Martin’s team while the football team was off prior to beginning practices for its bowl game, Ellington averaged 5.7 points and 1.7 assists per game.
Given how young the Gamecocks are it would have been nice to add an experienced voice to the rotation in SEC play. But they’ve played nine of their 12 games without Ellington, and one can’t fault him for pursuing his dream with a college degree in hand.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.
For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.
On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.
Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.
Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.
In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.
As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.
(More to come from Chapel Hill…)
North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.
(H/T: The Cauldron)